Studies of flower development in core eudicot species have established a central role for B class MADS-box genes in specifying petal and stamen identities. Similarly in maize and rice, B class genes are essential for lodicule and stamen specification, suggesting homology of petals and lodicules and conservation of B class gene activity across angiosperms. However, lodicules are grass-specific organs with a morphology distinct from petals, thus their true homology to eudicot and nongrass monocot floral organs has been a topic of debate. To understand the relationship of lodicules to the sterile floral organs of nongrass monocots we have isolated and observed the expression of B class genes from a basal grass Streptochaeta that diverged before the evolution of lodicules, as well as the outgroups Joinvillea and Elegia, which have a typical monocot floral plan. Our results support a conserved role for B function genes across the angiosperms and provide additional evidence linking the evolution of lodicules and second whorl tepal/petals of monocots. The expression data and morphological analysis suggest that the function of B class genes should be broadly interpreted as required for differentiation of a distinct second floral whorl as opposed to specifying petal identity per se.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Whipple, Clinton; Zanis, Michael; Kellogg, Elizabeth; and Schmidt, Robert, "Conservation of B Class Gene Expression in the Second Whorl of a Basal Grass and Outgroups Links the Origin of Lodicules and Petals" (2007). Biology Department Faculty Works. 58.